Rig welder to receive $5m in compensation for injuries on ship

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

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A rig welder who was injured when a tank exploded on a drill ship owned by PetroSaudi Oil Services (Venezuela) Ltd in 2013 will receive over $5 million in compensation.

John Boy Koat will receive the million-dollar payout which was assessed by High Court Master Martha Alexander.

She ordered Petrosaudi Oil Services (Venezuela) Ltd to compensate Koat in the sum of $4,839,326 plus interest and $234,492.20 in costs.

Koat, at the time of the incident, was performing pressure tests on the PetroSaudi Discoverer, which, at the time, was anchored off the coast of Chaguaramas, when a tank exploded.

In 2019, Koat accepted he was “contributorily negligent” and he was found to be 20 per cent liable for his injuries while the company was found to be 80 per cent liable.

The trial of the assessment was held in January 2021 when four witnesses testified at the virtual hearing.

Koat’s attorneys Shawn Roopnarine and Vidivarty Ramkhalawan called thee witnesses – Friedel Williams from the UK and Dr Peter Gentle and Dr David Santana as experts. PetroSaudi called O’Neil Cole, a private investigator, as its sole witness.

According to the facts of the case, on October 3, 2013, Koat was on the Discoverer to pressure test a stainless steel boiler water tank to repair leaks. The previous day, he sealed the leak by welding and when he returned to do another pressure test, the tank exploded.

“The injuries suffered by the claimant were numerous and their effects far reaching,” Alexander said in her assessment.

He was left with pain in the lower back, gluteal area, hip, shoulder, neck and lumbar spine, thigh, swelling, headaches, scaring of the thigh, wasted inferior left calf, and an irregular shape quadriceps. He said he had difficulty walking, running, jumping and now walk with a limp.

His injuries and their effects were confirmed by the medical evidence of the doctors and were accepted by Alexander who found their testimony to be “generally unimpeachable.”

In her assessment, Alexander said while Koat did not suffer fractures, he did suffer myelitis (a disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal cord) which manifested as numbness and tingling sensations as well as neuralgia (pain in a nerve pathway) and traumatic neurosis.

“There was no doubt in the mind of the court that his description of burning pain in his left thigh and other suffering would have been unpleasant and unrelenting,” she said as she made an award for pain and suffering.

Under the heading special damages, Alexander held Koat was able to prove his claim for loss of earnings and future earnings as a rig welder.

“It was accepted that the claimant was deprived of earning by his injuries, which was independent of the non- operation of the SaudiPetro Discoverer.

“The evidence was accepted that the claimant was marketable, highly skilled and well regarded by his superiors before suffering the injuries… On the totality of the evidence, the court accepted that on a balance of probabilities, the claimant would have continued to work but for his debilitating injuries and his working field would have been offshore or onshore, internationally, regionally or locally. His injuries brought what was otherwise a lucrative welding career to an abrupt halt and he did not invite the tort nor its consequences on his earning capabilities.

“In the circumstances, the invitation of counsel for the defendant to dismiss the claim for loss of earnings was examined thoroughly and it was found unreasonable and unjust,” she ruled, as she ordered a total of $1,732,737.39, plus interest, in special damages and $2,936,589.94 for future loss of earnings.

“What was very clear in the mind of this court from the medical evidence was that the claimant could not work as a rig welder at all and, by inference, it meant that he was not totally incapacitated from all forms of work whatsoever,” she said.

Attorneys Bronock Reid and Tamika Simon represented PetroSaudi at the assessment trial.